[…] Richard and Cindy Little, a white couple living in a predominantly white neighborhood, filed a complaint with the Louisiana Department of Insurance. Eventually, they won full reimbursement for their repairs.
Doretha and Roy Kitchens, a black couple living in New Orleans’ overwhelmingly black Lower Ninth Ward, simply gave up and took what their insurer gave them. They didn’t know they could appeal to the state.
Though poor and minority neighborhoods suffered the brunt of Katrina’s fury, residents living in white neighborhoods have been three times as likely as homeowners in black neighborhoods to seek state help in resolving insurance disputes, according to an Associated Press computer analysis.
The analysis of Louisiana’s insurance complaints settled in the first year after Katrina highlights a cold, hard truth exposed by Katrina’s winds and waters: People of color and modest means, who often need the most help after a major disaster, are disconnected from the government institutions that can provide it, or distrustful of those in power.
“The blacks didn’t complain ’cause they got tired,” said Doretha Kitchens, 58, who recalls numerous phone calls to her insurer that often ended with her being put on hold. Ultimately, she accepted her insurer’s offer of about $34,000 for damages that actually total more than $120,000.
The insurance industry and state regulators say they made special efforts — even in the midst of Katrina’s chaos — to reach out to poor and minority neighborhoods to inform them of options.
But their ad appeals on local radio did little to inform the thousands of mostly black residents who were displaced to Houston. And giving a toll free number for help didn’t help poor minorities who stayed behind with no telephone or cell service. Officials acknowledge victims slipped through the cracks.
Nearly 75 percent of the settled cases were filed by residents currently living in predominantly white neighborhoods. Just 25 percent were filed by households in predominantly minority ZIP codes, the analysis found.
Another case of what you don’t know can’t help you.
Should the government have taken extra measures beyond runnings to let the affected minorities know they had options? Is this a case of racial privilege?
Discuss amongst yourselves.